Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I welcome this opportunity to appear before your committee.
I apologize that we have no written brief. Something fell between the cracks and we were not aware until Monday morning that a presentation was asked for. I was sitting happily by the pool in Florida when I was asked to make a presentation.
I will speak for the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, for which I'm a past chairman and member of the board of directors. I will also represent Irving Shipbuilding Inc. I retired as vice-chairman a couple of years ago, and I still do work on a consulting basis. I will also briefly talk on behalf of Atlantic Towing Limited, which is another Irving company.
For brevity, when I speak for Irving Shipbuilding Inc., I'll call it ISI, and when I talk about the Shipbuilding Association, I'll call it the association.
It has to be five or six years ago that we started talking about EFTA. It's been a long time, and I have been involved since day one in the discussions.
The positions of the association and Irving are basically the same. From day one, we said the Norwegian industry has been totally supported by its government to build up a tremendous infrastructure. It is a good industry with a lot of government help, and now they're looking to see what else they can do.
So our position from day one has been that shipbuilding should be carved out from the trade agreement. We butted our heads against a brick wall for quite a number of years on that and we were told there is no carve-out. If the Americans, under the Jones Act, can carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA and other free trade agreements, as I believe the Americans are doing today with Korea, or have done, why can Canada not do the same?
Looking at NAFTA, we feel we were sold down the river on NAFTA. We cannot build for American shipowners, but American shipbuilders can build for Canadian shipowners and import the ships into Canada duty-free. There has never been such a one-sided agreement, to my knowledge. It's totally ludicrous that they can build for Canadian owners, come in duty-free, and we cannot build for American owners. On the repair side, it is even worse. We used to be able to do some repairs for American Jones Act ships. Today it's very, very difficult. There are a lot of restrictions, and that work has basically disappeared.
So I think you can understand why we were all for carve-out.
The Shipbuilding Association reluctantly took this position. After beating our heads against the wall, we said, “Okay, you're telling us that categorically there will be no carve-out?” The bureaucrats we were dealing with at the time said, “Quite definitely.” We then took the attitude as an association that half a loaf is better than nothing, so we started the discussion and said, “Since you're telling us that, then we need a long phase-in period.” We talked for fifteen years, and to the best of my knowledge I think the fifteen years has been achieved. We don't like it, but if it's the best deal that could be done, we have to stick with it.
The association was quite firm on the point, however, that their agreement on a phase-out was contingent on getting a new shipbuilding policy. Now, the new shipbuilding policy we asked for was that the Government of Canada continue the Buy Canada policy for Canadian government ships, and we are told that is still the situation. We still have the Buy Canada policy. That's excellent, as there are quite a number of programs coming in.
But we went further. We have the structured financing facility where there is an interest buy-down for potential owners. Canadian owners also have access to the accelerated capital cost allowance, where you can depreciate a ship basically over three years. But it's an either/or situation, and it's totally unfair to Canadian shipowners. If we build a ship for a foreign owner, they can get access to the structure and financing facility and get an interest buy-down. They can then go back to their own country and get accelerated depreciation, the same as you do in Canada. So they get a ship that they can depreciate very quickly and beneficially to them, and the charge-out rates then go worldwide when they're putting their ship to use.
When a Canadian owner comes to us, we tell them they can get the structured financing facility, but if they take it, they don't get the ACCA, and therefore the depreciation isn't over three years, it's over twenty years.
So you penalize, by the introduction of this, the Canadian owners. A Canadian owner might be then better going overseas, where he can get reasonable financing. But then to bring his ship into Canada, where he currently pays the duty, he's no better off. So you're penalizing the shipbuilding industry and you're penalizing the Canadian owners.
The Shipbuilding Association agreement to the phase-out was contingent on the Buy Canada policy, combining SFF and ACCA. Since that has not happened, the Shipbuilding Association is back to the policy of carve-out. We've said that since day one. However, we're told it's not in the agreement. You've gone with a 15-year phase-out.
Quite some time ago, we were told that the only thing holding up an agreement was the shipbuilding industry. Everything else had been agreed. The shipbuilding was holding everything up. One must ask oneself, why is shipbuilding holding it up? Who wants shipbuilding? Who are the EFTA countries that want shipbuilding in the agreement? I'm quite sure it doesn't matter to Greenland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland: it only leaves Norway.
Somebody should ask themselves why Norway is so hell-bent on getting shipbuilding into EFTA. There's only one answer: they want to come in, they want to sell ships in Canada, and they want take away the ships we are building. More than that, Norway owns one of the biggest offshore supply vessel fleets in the world. They look worldwide in terms of where they can put these ships. These ships were basically built at a time when they got subsidies. They've been depreciated. They can therefore put them into Canada at charter rates that the companies in Canada cannot meet.
Now, that's not going to affect the shipbuilder directly, but it's going to affect, for example, Atlantic Towing Limited. Since 1995, Atlantic Towing, which is an Irving company, has invested $317 million in an offshore supply boat fleet. It was not under subsidy and they didn't get the SFF on any of them. The financed the fleet themselves. They now have to compete against ships, if we go ahead with this, where the charter rate will beat the hell out of them. Those ships were built with subsidies and were written down.
We deal a lot with Norway. Funnily enough, we built these offshore supply boats to a Norwegian design. We bought the equipment in Norway. We say ourselves that we have excellent relations with the Norwegians. We could have designed an offshore supply boat, but they build the UT722s. If you're in the oil business and you're chartering supply boats, you'll know--everybody in the business worldwide will know--what a UT722 is. We thought about it, and thought, okay, we'll design a Halifax 123. But when anybody would go to charter it, we knew they would say, “What the hell is a Halifax 123? I've no idea what that ship does. I like the UT722.” That's the reason we went to Norway, we bought the design, and we built them.
As I said, we're very good friends with them, and we don't mind doing that, but now we feel that they're putting the boots to us. Not only do they want us to buy their equipment, they want to build the ships in Norway, put their own equipment on them, and then send them to Canada. I think the government has to think a long time before it does that.
The other thing there has been a lot of discussion about is Norwegian content. The negotiators had actually negotiated that a vessel built in Norway, with 35% Norwegian content, would qualify as built in Canada. That was the most ludicrous thing we had ever heard. They got the numbers mixed up. It's now changed, I understand, to 65% Norwegian content. But even at 65%, there is the potential that Norway can build the hulls in low-cost European countries, import them to Norway, put their equipment in them, outfit them, send them to Canada to a Canadian owner, and qualify for the reduced duty. Those would qualify as Norwegian-built ships.
A Norwegian-built ship should be 100% built in Norway. Sixty-five percent is a lot better than thirty-five percent, but it's still debatable. There is the potential there for them to go to Poland or someplace to build low-cost hulls.
For us, going to Poland is out of the question. For one thing, we don't employ these guys. For another thing, towing a dead hull with no equipment or power across the Atlantic is just out of the question. It's not feasible or cost-effective either.
What happens if this goes ahead?
Shipbuilding in Canada is in a precarious situation. If you go back to the early 1980s, we had a big viable industry. In about 1986 we started with a shipbuilding rationalization program. You have Burrard on the west coast. Yarrows closed. Collingwood closed. MIL and Sorel closed. Vickers in Montreal closed. A big part of the capability was taken out.
What we are left with today is Washington Marine on the west coast and a few other smaller ones. There is Port Weller in the middle, which is owned by Upper Lakes Shipping, and its future is somewhat in the balance and it was recently in bankruptcy. Jack Leitch from Upper Lakes has bought it back, and hopefully it's going to stay in business. You have Davie Shipbuilding in Quebec, which has been in bankruptcy four times that I remember in the last 30 years. There is a new owner, and funny enough, the owner is Norwegian. I think that's pure coincidence, by the way. We're not sure of the future of Davie. It's very busy right now, and hopefully it's making a strong comeback and it'll stay in business. Then you have the Irving Group on the east coast with Halifax Shipyards and East Isle in Prince Edward Island. You have Marystown in Newfoundland. That is basically the industry.
For example--and I apologize for not having any handouts--if you look at the Halifax Shipyard and East Isle, between them right now there are approximately 600 or 700 employees. The average payroll runs to $30 million. We pay $11 million a year in CPP, EI, and others. Halifax Shipyard purchases locally $35 million in goods and services, basically in Nova Scotia, but also in other parts. East Isle has purchased $3 million in Prince Edward Island. If you're in Toronto $3 million in purchases doesn't get much attention, but in Prince Edward Island $3 million certainly helps. If you look at Atlantic Towing, they employ 300 people. They have an annual payroll of $17 million, pay $6 million CPP, etc., purchased $17 million, and as I said, since 1995 have spent $317 million.
There is a group in Quebec, and we got this information from Gordon Bain, who is the president. He would be affected like East Isle and like Atlantic Towing and Secunda. He employs 350 people. He has an annual payroll of $18.7 million. He pays $4.6 million in payroll taxes and spends $20 million a year in purchases of local goods and services. Gordon has invested $50.6 million in that company since 1995.
There's a big investment in the companies. If they were to disappear, we would be in dire straits.
There's one other major point that must be considered, and I think the Department of National Defence has finally come around to this concept. It started, I think, three years ago at an outlook conference in Vancouver, and I gave a speech about it. Without new construction, the ship repair industry will not survive in Canada. Ship construction attracts the engineers, naval architects, and technicians. Ship repair is difficult. The Japanese call it KKK. It's dirty, dangerous, and difficult. You need ship construction to advance the technology, get the investment, and get the people that you require--the engineers and technicians.
If there is no new construction in Canada, it's quite likely the repair will disappear. If there is no new construction, the Halifax Shipyard will likely close. That affects these fellows, it affects the payroll; but worse than that, we are neighbours with a fleet maintenance facility. We have a common boundary.
When I talk to the admirals, I say, “Do you realize that if we disappear, we disappear for good? What are you going to do with your frigates?” They answer “Yes, but....”
You're not going to Spain, you're not going to Portugal, you're not going to the U.K.; the logical choice is to go to the U.S. We've got 12 frigates; the U.S. has 57 FFG7s. If there's any difficulty in getting repair, you know who's going to be at the head of the line. It's not going to be us.
There is a growing concern amongst the senior brass at DND that the ship repair industry must exist. It's a strategic resource. The Americans, the U.K., France, Germany, and Australia all recognize it as a strategic resource.
We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues. The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA. And if you do one thing, convince your colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance, and you will have as vibrant an industry as exists.
There's nobody here from the Great Lakes, but the Great Lakes today are in a terrible situation. The average ship is over 30 years old and has to be built soon.
My recommendation is to carve out EFTA, combine SFF extended, and combine it with ACCA.
Thank you very much, gentlemen.